Women's health * Healthy living

Jennifer Saunders treated for breast cancer

Jennifer Saunders treated for breast cancer Actress 'in very good spirits'

Actress and comedienne Jennifer Saunders has completed treatment for breast cancer, according to media reports.

The 52 year old mother of three underwent chemotherapy after discovering a lump in her breast last October and completed treatment in June. A friend told the Daily Mail she was in "very good spirits." Like everyone else, we wish her well.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. Each year over 45,000 women are diagnosed with the disease - equivalent to 125 women every day.

It is the second biggest cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer.

Advances in medical research, screening and new types of treatment means that more women now survive breast cancer than ever before. But still more than 10,000 women die from it each year.

Although the majority of cases occur in post-menopausal women, about 8,000 women under the age of fifty develop breast cancer annually.

Risk Factors

The risk of breast cancer is higher in women who:

  • Have a mother, sister or daughter who developed breast cancer before the age of 50 (eight out of nine newly diagnosed cases have no family history)
  • Have no or few children, or had children late in life
  • Have never breastfed
  • Started their periods early, and/or have started the menopause late in life
  • Are obese. Post menopausal women who are obese have an increased risk of disease
  • Smoke
  • Drink alcohol

What to look out for

Signs of breast cancer include:

  • Any lump in the breast (often painless) or thickening tissue
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • A normal nipple which becomes indrawn, or changes shape
  • Skin over the breast which becomes puckered or dimpled
  • Any swelling or lump in the armpit

How to examine your breasts

Self examination of your breasts should be done monthly.

Look at your breasts in a mirror with arms by your side. Look for any change in:

  • Shape
  • Size
  • Skin texture
  • Nipple outline

Repeat with the arms raised upwards. Repeat with the upper body leaning forward.

FEEL your breasts for lumps while lying down. Use the flat of your hand and examine each breast methodically, working outwards from the nipple in increasing circles.

Then feel for any lumps in your armpits and in the hollow above the collar bone. 70 per cent of breast lumps are found by the patient, so breast self examination is very important.

If you find a lump, don't panic, as 90 per cent of breast lumps are benign - not cancerous!! Go straight to your GP and get it checked out.

NHS screening

All women aged 50 to 70 are entitled to be screened for breast cancer on the NHS. Screening is by mammogram (a bit like an x-ray), is painless and is estimated to save 1400 women's lives each year in England alone. If you are not being screened, pay your GP a visit.

This article was published on Thu 8 July 2010

Image © jennifersaunders

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